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Monday, May 27, 2013

Spilling Our Guts: SAMBAM

"When you’re really sick, you cling to your eating disorder like a lifeline, believing it’s the only thing that will provide you with some stability through all the chaos. . .
Do I struggle, slip-up, and backslide? Hell yes. Am I giving up? Hell. No."

Dear Readers,
I'm so happy to introduce our next blogger, my dearest darling Samantha. I love this girl. The first time I met her she was wearing a shirt that said, "Every Saint has a past, Every Sinner has a future." I thought to myself, "She looks like Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and she's wearing an Oscar Wilde quote? This girl is SOOO COOL." We bonded over our mutual craziness, Star Trek, and a love of all things Thrift. After she discharged from CFC I got this picture in an e-mail:
Seriously, this girl knows how to make me smile.
Sam Bam, thank you for sharing a peice of you with me and the world. I'm so glad you're in my life.

Well, hi! I just want to say how honored and flattered I am that my main girl, Milla, asked me to share my story. I’ll warn you though; I’ve never done this before. Even though I’ve been working on my recovery for 1½ years now, this is the most public I’ve ever been with my experience. But I guess there’s a first time for everything. Ladies and gentleman…I, Samantha, have an eating disorder.
Whew. That was kind of a big deal for me. Having an eating disorder has long been a huge source of shame for me. I thought it made me bad, weak, broken, and defective. It was always a secret I had to hide. It was the worst part of me I never wanted anyone to know about. Luckily, this is changing for me. I’m learning that I’m not weak or broken. If anything, fighting an eating disorder makes me stronger. Wow, I never thought I would say that! I’m learning that having an eating disorder is not my fault. I’m realizing that I never chose to be sick; it’s an illness that happened to me. But I’m also learning that I DO have to choose recovery. It’s a constant battle and it’s one I’ve been fighting for a really long time.
A little background about me: I’m 26 years old, born and raised in Utah. I have two amazing parents, two wonderful brothers, two gorgeous sisters, and the most adorable puppy ever born. I’m the oldest sibling and I think I’ve had a pretty average life with a pretty typical childhood.
A little more about me: Growing up, I had a hard time making friends and struggled to fit in. I’ve always been very emotionally sensitive. I’m extremely self-critical and I’ve always had a hard time comparing myself to others. These are all things that I believe contributed to my eating disorder. I know there are some people that can point to an event in their life and say THAT’S when my eating disorder started. It’s not like that for me. My eating disorder developed over time when just the wrong mix of circumstances and experiences combined to make the perfect storm.
I was in sixth grade when the thought of being fat entered my consciousness. I can remember the exact moment it happened. I was watching a kickball game during recess. I was wearing shorts that day and I remember looking down and thinking, “My legs look fat.”
Up until that point, I had had a lot of negative thoughts about myself. I was weird. I was ugly. I was a loser. But fat? That was a new one. From that day forward, “being fat” was stuck in my brain. The thought grew stronger and stronger over the next several years, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that my eating disorder actually started. I was fifteen.
I had my own friends, but I would never be one of the “cool kids.” I never had a boyfriend and I never got asked on dates or to the school dances. I was active in a lot of things: volleyball, choir, newspaper, but I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I believed that “being fat” was a factor in all of my shortcomings. If I just had a better body, I’d be a better volleyball player. If I could be skinny, the boys would want to date me. If I weren’t so fat, people would like me better. Years of low self-esteem and pressure from society led me to believe that my body determined my worth.
For the past twelve years, I have struggled with that belief. My life has been a roller coaster of restricting, binging, purging, weight loss, weight gain, obsessing about food, exercise, depression, anxiety, and self-harm. I’ve swung wildly from one extreme to another, good days and bad days, being happy in my eating disorder and being utterly miserable. After years and years of ups and downs, I still have the same distorted thoughts and the same crappy body image.
Having an eating disorder gives you a sense of control in your otherwise out-of-control life. When you’re really sick, you cling to your eating disorder like a lifeline, believing it’s the only thing that will provide you with some stability through all the chaos. Eventually, the chaos catches up with you. At least, that’s what happened to me. A year and a half ago, I finally hit bottom. I threw my hands in the air and said I can’t do this anymore. I was losing my health, my relationships, and my sanity. I went to Center for Change and worked on slowly getting my life back.
I can sum up treatment in two words: damn hard! Okay, that doesn’t really sum it up, but going to treatment has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It has required more strength than I ever knew I could muster. I have shed more tears than I thought was possible. There were so many days I thought I would quit; so many times I thought I had nothing left to give. Facing your eating disorder makes you take a good long look at everything about yourself, good and bad. Facing your eating disorder makes you challenge all of your negative thoughts and beliefs. It shakes you to the core. It breaks you down and then builds you back up.
I wish I could say there was a magic pill that can cure an eating disorder, but it’s not that simple. I completed treatment, but am I recovered? Unfortunately, no.
Has going to treatment changed my life? Undoubtedly, yes!
I have learned so much about myself. I have met so many amazing people. (Miss Camilla is one of them!) I have found support and understanding. I no longer have to be ashamed of my struggles. Fighting an eating disorder is hard enough, but fighting shame along with it? That, my friends, is called a losing battle.
So, where am I now? Still fighting every day. Still working on my recovery. Still challenging my distorted thoughts. Still battling my body image.
Do I struggle, slip-up, and backslide? Hell yes. Am I giving up?
Hell. No.
I’m not where I want to be, but I’m so much farther than I was. Can I learn to accept myself and my body? Can I have a happy life with healthy relationships? Can I be fully recovered? Can I have a life without an eating disorder? I think so.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spilling Our Guts: Brynna

I got on Facebook this morning and saw this status update from my dear friend Brynna. I met her at Center for Change and I've seen her fight and struggle and grow. I've never met anyone who wants to want recovery as much as she does. And if you're lucky she might sing for you... :) 

Having an eating disorder is definitely not as glamorous as people think. Losing weight is a SIDE EFFECT, not the goal.

First, you get a high that eventually goes away. The dizziness, lightheadedness, memory loss, sleepiness. Suddenly, your day is completely filled with temptation, and your nights are filled with sleeplessness, nightmares of binging.

You push everyone away. Nothing matters to you anymore. You become mean and volatile, irritable to no end. You can't stop thinking about food, and the food causes fear inside of you that cannot be explained.
You wish that you could move on. You wish that you could be a better person. You wonder how the hell you got to where you are. You are doing things that you never thought you'd do.
You turn to other addictions to run away from this one. Stealing, lying, sneaking around. Running, smoking, drugs, drinking. But nothing can take you away, can numb all the pain. NOTHING.

Except, pushing past your fears. Eating. Eventually, the constant thoughts will go away. At least, that's what they say.

You'll have to put your trust in someone else, in SOMETHING else.

I've been bulimic since I was 15, anorexic since I was 13. It's NOT glamorous. I wouldn't wish this lifestyle on anyone. But, I have seen people take steps to make their life better, people who have suffered just as long, and even longer, than I have. And I have hope. And sometimes that's all I have to hold onto. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Spilling Our Guts: Kristina

I met Kristina at CFC. She blew in like a breath of fresh air. At least to me. She sent herself there. She wanted to show her family and friends that she was committed to making a change in her life. When I first got to know her (over a game of Bananagrams) I thought to myself, "Seth (my little brother) would LOVE this girl..." She is so vibrant, honest, intelligent, interesting, beautiful, fun, funny, and lovable. Her smile is infectious. She is tough. She is a fighter. I'm so blessed to know her, and so thankful for her willingness to share her story, the good and the bad.

"Recovery is a process with no timeline. It is specific to the individual."

           So. I am at a total loss at how to begin writing a blog entry. I am not a blogger, I am not witty, and I am definitely no Camilla. I guess I’ll just begin with the most boring and predictable sentence I could possibly write: My name is Kristina Atsalis, I am 19, and I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I have taken a year off after graduating from Barnstable High School last year and plan on attending Syracuse University in New York next fall.
            My childhood was seemingly wonderful. I grew up directly on the beach with the best of friends and a love of books. However, I also walked in the shadows of three perfects brothers. And I mean perfect. They excel in academics, in sports, and now as adults.
            Ninth grade kicked off with the start of cross country. I ran already, but only two or three miles, and joined on a whim. The season turned out to be my first varsity letter, running faster than I had anticipated and breaking cross country records. I was interviewed, I was congratulated, and was proud for once in my life. I continued to run through the winter while fighting ruthlessly for A grades. I kept running and stopped sleeping so that I could study. Running was the one thing in my life I could be proud of; I wasn’t more intelligent than my brothers, but I sure was faster. I finally believed I was special, different, and worthy of being an Atsalis.
            Cue eating disorder. I ran. I remember nothing of this next summer except for running. Rain, wind, 6 am or 7 pm, I was outside. I returned for sophomore year and was followed by whispers. “Did you hear? Kristina can’t run on the team this year. She’s too thin. I mean, look at her.” I was crushed. Running and being thin was all that I had, it was my identity, and it was the only way I fit into my family. However, I was diagnosed anorexic and forced to gain weight.
At school, with friends, I was the loudest, I smiled from ear to ear, I was the girl who loved life. No one would second guess that I was on stage, performing to convince the world that I was “fine”. I went to school believing I could “fake it 'til I made it” and went to bed each night, crumbing and alone, even more defeated than when I woke up. For months, hardly a day went by without a screaming match between my parents and I. The words “I hate you” to my father became second nature. Disgust ran through my veins like poison and leaked into my words and into my relationships; my parents doubled over with sadness as I pushed aside their help without a second glance.
Fast forward to March of my junior year. After three years of avoiding food, depression knocked me on my ass and food becomes the bad boy I cannot stay away from. I binged. Everyday. I grew tired of being impressive, stopped running, and began to sleep my days away. Everyone has a fat friend, it might as well be me, right? I begin purging the food I binged on after gaining so much extra weight that I could not look in the mirror anymore.
I was officially diagnosed bulimic and severely depressed my senior year of high school and left for my first treatment center, Eating Recovery Center, in December. I re-entered treatment at Remuda Ranch in March, and admitted at Center for Change after spending a week in a psych ward this past November. I can honestly say that after three treatment centers, my eating disorder is still here. It screams at me and tells me purge. My family is furious. HOW could I possibly not be fully recovered yet? Their assumption is that I am lazy and not trying. Truthfully, I am trying the best that I can, but I am scared. I am scared that recovery I am not strong enough to recover. My family’s beliefs are seeping into my brain, convincing me that I am a failure for still having lapses and feeling sad.

This is my biggest obstacle: 
Acknowledging that I am doing my best regardless of my family’s unrealistic expectations.

I am learning to be patient with myself, knowing that recovery is a process with no timeline. It is specific to the individual. My path to happiness includes four very best friends and a therapist whom I love. They are my main support system and they keep me grounded and on track. They remind me that I am loved, that boys will be boys, that grades are not everything, and that I can do this
Because I can. 
And so can Camilla. 
And so can you...
The moment we begin to love who we are and forgive the past, the world is ours.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spilling Our Guts

Dear Readers,

        Thanks so much for all your support. For writing to me, for reading, for kicking my trash when I need it, and for your words of encouragement. I'm kind of tired of talking about myself all the time, so I'm excited to start a new segment featuring other people who have or have had eating disorders. People in various stages of recovery; people who are struggling, people who are fully recovered, people who are trying. I know recovery can feel very lonely. I'm lucky becasue I have COPIOUS amounts of support, but even so I sometimes feel as though I'm the only one lapsing, or struggling, or who can't do it perfectly. The truth is recovery is not always pretty and it's certainly not perfect. It can take months. It can take years. It might be a daily decision for the rest of our lives! So let's talk about it. My first post will go up Sunday. If you'd like to contribute to this, please email me at, and keep in mind that this is a PRO-RECOVERY forum.
Much love,